A couple weeks ago I wrote about the immigration of my great-grandfather Jacob Müller/Miller. He was born and lived in Bierbach, Kingdom of Bavaria (now Germany). What was the little village of Bierbach like during the time Jacob lived there?
Bierbach was part of the Bavarian Pfalz, also called the Palatinate. It is located in south-western Germany.
One of the best sources of information for all those little German villages is the Meyers Orts und Verkehrs Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs, 1905. It is a large gazetteer which describes towns & cities as they were between 1871 and 1919. It is valuable because it lists about 200,000 places in the old German Empire as well as information about their parish and civil registries. The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne has a copy of this book and several years ago I went there to look through it.
I was prepared when I went to the library to look at the Meyers Orts gazetteer. I made a list of every German town and village that I knew of that was connected to my German ancestors. The gazetteer is printed in an old Gothic typeface so I also took along a “cheat-sheet” showing the Gothic letters and their modern-day writing equivalent. Otherwise I don’t think I would have recognized most of the letters.
Once I found the information about a town in the Myers Orts I photocopied the entry and brought the copies back home to translate at a later time. The print is pretty tiny so it also helped to enlarge the copies or have a magnifying glass handy.
This Meyers Orts is written in German and it uses abbreviations and codes. I definitely needed something to help me decipher and understand their system. Luckily there are several guides that explain the abbreviation table and how to understand the book. I used the following sources:
- The German Researcher, Fourth printing, Fay Dearden & Douglas Dearden. Payson, Arizona: Family Tree Press, 1998.
- A Genealogical Handbook of German Research Volume I, Larry O. Jensen. Pleasant Grove, Utah: Jensen Publications, 1980.
- Understanding Meyers Orts, Fay S. Dearden. Payson, Arizona: Family Tree Press, 2000.
The last source is a small and portable booklet. All were very helpful.
The 1905 Meyers Orts describes Bierbach as a small village on the Blies River, in the country of Bavaria, in the provincial district of Pfalz. The district office was in Saint Ingbert, the civil registry was at Blieskastel, and the district military office was in Zweibruken. The population was 808. There was a post office in Bierbach but the nearest telegraph office was at Einod. Bierbach had a savings & loan organization and a town cattle insurance corporation. There was a lumber company, a basket-works fabrication, and a stone quarry there. I have since read that basket making was a major occupation in Bierbach at that time.
Wikimapia says that Bierbach was first mentioned in 1230. According to Heraldry of the World Bierbach is supposedly named after St. Pirminius, who brought Christianity to the area in the 8th century. The name Pir(mins)bach later bacame Bierbach. The Bierbach arms was granted on 8 November 1954 and shows a canting bend (Bach=stream, brook) which starts in the local forests, indicated by the green color. The escutcheon shows the image of St. Pirminius.
Bierbach is now in the state of Saarland, the District of Saar-Pfalz Kreis and was incorporated into Blieskastel in 1974. Today the town has a population of about 2000.
Another very helpful source of information about Bierbach is Einwohner von Bierbach bis 1830 by Hans Cappel, 1980. This book has been microfilmed and is available from the Family History Library. It gives the names of the residents of Bierbach from 1830 back to the late 1600s. Luckily for me the information about the residents was translated and typed. The history of the town has not been translated and is typed in German.
Thanks to digitization and the Internet the Meyers Orts is also now on-line at a couple websites. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch both have it. It is still written in the Gothic German type. It had not been translated. However you can search for a town very easily.